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Conducting clinical studies targeting cognition in psychiatry: guiding principles and design

  • Tamsyn E. Van Rheenen (a1) (a2) (a3), Kathryn E. Lewandowski (a4) (a5), Jessica M. Lipschitz (a5) (a6) and Katherine E. Burdick (a5) (a6)

Cognitive dysfunction is common in many psychiatric disorders. While it has long been described as a core feature in schizophrenia, more recent data suggest qualitatively similar impairments in patients with bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. There is compelling evidence to suggest that cognitive impairment contributes directly to functional disability and reduced quality of like across these disorders. As current treatments focus heavily on “primary” symptoms of mood and psychosis, the standard of care typically leaves cognitive deficits unmanaged. With this in mind, the field has recently begun to consider intervening directly on this important symptom domain, with several ongoing trials in schizophrenia. Fewer studies have targeted cognition in bipolar disorder and still fewer in MDD. With progress toward considering this domain as a target for treatment comes the need for consensus guidelines and methodological recommendations on cognitive trial design. In this manuscript, we first summarize the work conducted to date in this area for schizophrenia and for bipolar disorder. We then begin to address these same issues in MDD and emphasize the need for additional work in this area.

Corresponding author
*Address for correspondence: Katherine E. Burdick, PhD, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 221 Longwood Ave., Boston, MA 02119, USA. (Email:
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